The Minnesota Legislature will be meeting on an “on-call” basis for the next 30 days, leaders announced Monday morning.
During that time, much of their legislative work will focus on responding to the coronavirus outbreak, which reached 54 confirmed cases in the state as of Monday afternoon.
“Over the next few weeks, the Minnesota Legislature will continue to work, but by alternative means. We expect to operate efficiently and safely to aid Minnesotans with COVID-19 preparedness and response, and to continue our work to address other pressing needs of the state,” leaders of both the House and Senate said in a joint statement.
They said they plan to fully comply with the Minnesota Department of Health’s guidelines on “social distancing, limiting large gatherings, telework, and increased cleaning measures.”
Floor sessions and committee meetings will be held only on an “on-call” basis from Monday through April 14, which will leave lawmakers with a little more than a month to wrap up the session before their May 18 adjournment date.
“This means there will not be standing floor and committee meetings, but we will meet on the House and Senate floors and in committees with advance notice to members and to the public. All meetings will be held in spaces that allow six feet of distance between individuals. We will implement telework arrangements for legislative employees where it is possible to do so,” the statement continued.
The House and Senate will only take up legislation during this time period if all caucus leaders are in agreement.
“We are working together to ensure the safety of our members, our staff, and the public at this time,” the statement concluded.
Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency in response to the virus and ordered the closure of all K-12 public schools through March 27. Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said public schools need to prepare distance learning opportunities in the event that schools are closed for more than eight days.
Walz issued another executive order Monday night ordering the closure of places of public accommodation and amusement starting Tuesday at 5 p.m. and remaining in effect through March 27. The order applies to bars, restaurants, gyms, museums, theaters, and coffee shops, but pickup and delivery services are still allowed.
The state has tested 1,893 patients for the virus and has received 54 positive results. Counties with a confirmed case now include Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Stearns, Waseca, Washington, and Wright. Hennepin County is currently the only county with more than 20 cases.
Health officials also confirmed the first three cases of “community transmission” of the virus, meaning it is now spreading among people who haven’t traveled out of the state. Nationally, there are 3,777 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 69 deaths.
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